education, Freedom, mindfulness

The Elusive System of Problem Solving

Problem, as defined by the dictionary, is a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome. The synonyms to ‘problem’ are of various degrees. From the harmless ‘mess-up’ to the conclusive check-mate of ‘catch-22’.

Most moments of a regular day can be categorised as a problem in some way. From the innocent confusion of what to eat for breakfast to the mind-numbing frustration of slow traffic. Everything requires some redressing, however….

ain’t nobody got time for that!

Well, imagine tiny articles in your closet, like socks or underwear, just strewn around. Sure they cause no harm, but all of us remember at least one day that was spent finding that one sock. So yes, tiny problems are ignored, in fact, we are encouraged to ignore them, but it is also true that organising that closet to contain the socks in one drawer is more satisfying than coaxing our brain to not let it affect us.

So why do we recognise a problem and insist on ignoring it? The cause and effect relationship explains that problem is a problem because there can be a solution, similarly, a solution is a solution because there is a problem. Both of them are bound by cause and effect. So how will we find the solution if we ignore the problem? How will we answer a question if we ignore the question?

This insight was the generosity of a friend very dear to me. I was upset over a career decision and couldn’t understand my way out. It confused me to a great extent and as a knee-jerk reaction, I decided to ignore it. I called my friend for a few drinks so I could divert my mind with something less daunting.

But my friend insisted on wanting to understand why I was gloomy. So I explained as best as I could and then he said and I quote, “When the roof leaks, don’t slap cement on the ceiling, put a bucket under to collect the water and climb up on the roof, squat deep so you find the hole and carefully mend it’.

He, like all other friends I have, understands that I need to reflect on lessons before I accept them. So he walked away and I sat in the bar feeling every word he uttered. I decided to apply his formula to my current situation step-by-step.

Slap Cement on the Ceiling Formula:

My situation was that the project we were working on had failed, and my manager required us all to prepare a report on the cause. So that was the leakage. Diverting my mind with alcohol while my mind was clearly occupied with insecurity was me slapping cement on the roof.

Climb the Roof Formula:

Attempting to save the situation by thinking about it was the bucket to contain the damage. Switching my perspective for that of my manager’s was getting on top of the roof, examining that perspective objectively was squatting deep and discovering the hole was actually seeing the problem for what it is, not what it means to me but what it objectively is.

I discovered that the problem is not so frightening after all. A minor tweak in our process could fix or at least diminish the damage. I prepared my report based on my perspective and sent it. The following day my colleagues agreed that my solution was worth a shot and it was.

I realised that I have a tendency to ignore my life and later through friends I realised that this is a common illness. But why must it be? If I can through my senses perceive a problem and through the eyes of my mind conceive the problem then I can endeavour to fix it. Going for a walk to help distract me from the problem is detrimental. Going on the same walk to actually address my problem is constructive.

Then how come we still don’t?

I recently saw a video that cast a magnificent light on this dilemma. It explains that we as humans share one thing in common more than anything – i.e. the propensity for laziness. I evaluated the message of the video and recognised its striking similarity to my own life. It is true – I do make excuses for not being different, I do find reasons to not be unique.

The light at the end of this dark tunnel is the lot who don’t conform. It is because of them I have the liberty today to revolutionise myself out of the chains of a uniform society. I know it sounds too dramatic but that really is how I see it. Not even 30 years before I was born, people were still fighting for the Right to Education. Today, it is at my fingertips. Is it dramatic now?

Now, it comes down to us, whether we want it or not?

My Mom once said these words, “Only on the day of vulnerability one realises power.”

Oh wow! Do I get it now? A poor excuse for not finding the solution is that we don’t want to understand the problem, hell, we don’t even want to look at it. We turn on the TV when our spouse wants to talk, we interrupt people before they can finish their complaint, and we also intoxicate ourselves in order to avoid thinking about it for just one more night (Guilty!).

But why? Why do we do it?

It sounds masochistic to me that I consciously try to sabotage myself. The people whom I value will certainly not hate me for being different; if anything, as I realised on my trip to Bali, they will in fact like me for my quirks. So am I the root of my own problem? I am, aren’t I?

Yup, I am or was. I mindfully started to work on each issue as it came and I realised it was simpler than I had conceived. I was no longer afraid of the problem – the problem was under my control. There are still times when I subconsciously let myself go, however, I detect it sooner now; instead of 2 hours I only waste 1. Hopefully, the minutes will decrease and I would eventually be myself 24 hours a day.

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